- Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:22
- Published on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 15:19
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First, I need to offer a little truth in lending before I write this column. I am a Democrat and I will not be participating in the Republican nomination process. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not paying close attention.
The choice of a candidate for Lieutenant Governor matters a great deal. This individual will not only figure prominently in this fall’s election, but if they win they will be on the front bench of the GOP’s prospects for nominees for governor four years from now.
The job doesn’t pay much, and its only official function is presiding over the State Senate, but as a bully pulpit, it has few equals. In the past thirty years, five Lieutenant Governors have been their party’s standard bearer in a race for the executive mansion and three have been elected governor.
There are seven candidates for the GOP nomination for Lieutenant Governor. It’s one of the largest fields ever. They include some powerhouses, such as Jeanmarie Devolites, a former State Senator and the wife of former Northern Virginia Congressman, Tom Davis, Corey Stewart, a long-time chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors. Also in the race are Prince William Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and State Senator Steve Martin. They all have money and connections.
However, almost in a stealth campaign, the Republican candidate that seems to be stealing the show is a one term member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. Susan Stimpson, who currently chairs the County Board, doesn’t have much money, still isn’t that well known outside the borders of her home county, but in just a few months has managed to assume the title of front runner.
Prior to being elected a county supervisor she was the Chairman of the Stafford Republican Party and during her tenure gained a positive reputation from her party’s conservative stalwarts. And it’s that intense conservative brand of politics which has propelled her to the status of front runner.
As many of her opponents readily point out Susan isn’t the most experienced of the seven candidates running. And make no mistake, it’s an experienced field which includes several long serving members of the general assembly. But arguably, it’s the perceived connection that many of these candidates have to what’s derisively called, “the Republican Establishment,” that’s hurting them with the conservative base of the GOP.
Several years ago, when the Tea Party came to prominence, grass roots conservatives decided to get involved in local Republican politics. This effort, started just a few years ago, quickly took hold statewide and from the local party units to the state central committee passionate conservatives have assumed a leading role in party politics. They hold strong views on taxes, the second amendment, abortion, and healthcare. What’s more, rightly or wrongly, many feel that the “Republican Establishment,” have let them down.
Stimpson has done her best to align her views with this new breed of Republican. Which hasn’t been hard, since she is really a product of this movement. In spite of her ties to Governor McDonnell and Speaker of the House Bill Howell she lambasted both for their support of the new transportation tax. According to some sources she now has the largest number of committed delegates. Stimpson’s campaign, and she would probably be upset with this comparison, has borrowed a page from President Obama. Remember, back in 2008, he was running an underdog campaign against a favorite, Hillary Clinton. Short on funds, just as Obama was, she relies heavily on the Internet, Facebook, and lots of e-mail to get out her message.
She may not have phone banks or slick literature, but thanks to a skillful social media campaign the word got out. One telling indicator of her success was that she won the recent Young Republican Straw Poll. In both parties, the support of the younger party members, and as a former Young Democrat, I know this is true, means a lot at the convention. With so many candidates, getting a clear majority, at the Young Republican Convention was a major coup.
Stimpson’s challenge, even if she has a plurality of delegates, is to hang on through multiple ballots. That’s not going to be easy. In other words, she has to be a lot of people’s second choice. Or, even third choice. This is the way conventions work. If she can manage this, and it will require deft tactical management on the convention floor, she just might win.
And should she be the nominee that’s just the beginning. In the Fall she will face either Senator Ralph Northam or Aneesh Chapra. Both of these potential Democratic nominees are formidable candidates. But I would offer this advice to both of them. If Susan Stimpson is your opponent, don’t underestimate her.